Monthly Archives: July 2015

You Only Need a Heart Full of Grace

“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

This year of service with Hands on Hartford at Community Meals has led me to meet many great people. When I began this year, I knew that I would both serve and be served. Doing service is like that; it’s reciprocal. You can’t give and not receive something in return. I knew that going into this experience. What I didn’t know was how many people would serve me or how big of an impact they would have on my life.

Alex connecting at Community Meals

Alex connecting at Community Meals

Hands On Hartford is made up of a passionate, dedicated team. Every single staff member and board member is full of grace and love. Their compassion shines through in the work they do to bring help to those in need in Hartford. Each person I have interacted with on this team has inspired me to keep pouring myself into my work at Community Meals. We all know that the work we do helps someone in a very real, tangible way, and we also know that we couldn’t do it alone.

The volunteers and donors who make it possible to run Hands On Hartford have also served me this year, especially the volunteers who come to Community Meals. Many come regularly to serve lunch or dinner, giving of their time and treasure to keep our meal program going. Their dedication and enthusiasm remind me of why I signed up to do this year of service in the first place. They are open to each client who walks through our door, ready to serve the meal with a smile and some conversation. They give of themselves freely and fully, putting aside their work and personal cares for a while to serve meals. Their dedication to service in the midst of their busy lives has continually reignited my passion for service; I know that even when this year of full-time service is over, I plan to serve regularly wherever I go.

The clients I have met this year have served me in the most unexpected of ways. So many small interactions have touched me and given me strength and hope this year. I will never forget one time I opened the door five minutes late in the morning. After I apologized, someone said to me, “It’s okay, you’re only human.”Alex1 (1)

            You’re only human. That has stayed with me through the challenges of this year. Sometimes, when you are in the profession of helping people, it can feel as though you are seen as more than human. You give and give, serve and serve, and you don’t show your frustration or impatience, hunger or exhaustion. Clients depend on you, no matter what you may be going through on the inside. To be seen and recognized as only human, even if by one person, gave me the strength and freedom to know that I cannot always do everything perfectly, but I can do my best to serve and give to the people I meet. With grace and love in my heart and soul, I can be great enough to serve others, inspired and encouraged by the other great people—clients, volunteers, and staff alike—who serve me.

Alex Pierlott

Mercy Volunteer at Hands On Hartford

July 2015

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A Year of Connecting at the MANNA Community Pantry

Lauren

As many people might know, I am nearing the end of my year of service as a Mercy Volunteer at Hands on Hartford. My days at the food pantry were filled with answering phone calls, greeting clients, guiding folks around the pantry, entering statistics, and assisting with other various supportive services. This year began with a feeling of anxiety and is now wrapping up with a sense of accomplishment.

Personally, my biggest challenge was communicating with our pantry clients when there was a language barrier. At first I would shy away from any interaction where I might not be able to communicate fully. Over time I have managed to pick up a few Spanish words, but one I like to use frequently is “Me gusta…” and then I point to the part of a client’s outfit I find cute. I have one particular interaction in mind that includes an older Spanish-speaking woman, a pair of earrings, and myself. As usual, I greeted this client with a smile, “hola,” and then my famous “Me gusta…”, followed by a point to her earrings. I never saw someone smile so brightly! This elderly woman radiated with ejewelry for blog postxcitement since I noticed her earrings that she immediately offered them to me. Through her broken English and my broken Spanish, we laughed, smiled, and somehow I ended up with the earrings.  This client was so happy to be able to make a gift instead of just receiving, she brought me a necklace at her next month’s appointment. I received much more than these two pieces of jewelry in interacting with this woman. She taught me that we always have the power to give to one another- whether it be a smile, hug, food, or something else. It’s these types of interactions that remind me of how much we all have in common in our desire to be appreciated for our own gifts to the world.

My time at Hands on Hartford has been full of new experiences, meeting new people, interacting with a different culture, and also finding ways to help those who are less fortunate. In my social work role, I have come to truly love assisting clients, especially with their utility bills. Whenever I schedule an appointment for utility assistance, I dedicate one full hour for them. This time is special to me because I am able to sit down with a family and hear more about their story- their jobs, struggles, family dynamic, and expenses. My first client this year was one that I will remember forever: The woman worked a job that gave her hours only during certain seasons, received limited assistance from the government, but for the most part was trying to make it on her own. I then advocated for her to her electric company. Together, we were able to set up a payment plan that she could afford- $90 a month. I submitted the proper paperwork and then was happily surprised when I learned we could provide her with 3 months of payments- a total of $270! Upon calling the lady to let her know of our assistance, I received the delighted reply of “I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU!” I guess you could say she was grateful and excited. While not every client reacts with such strong emotions, I know that by advocating for them, I can help to alleviate a portion of their financial burden and stress.

It is in these moments of interacting with clients that I have come to realize that my passion lies in helping others. My time with Hands on Hartford has solidified my plan of attending graduate school for social work. I have truly found myself while serving my clients each and every day. Even though I cannot solve all of the world’s problems, I can make a positive difference on the lives of those I do encounter. Saying good-bye to everyone has been difficult, but I appreciate the well wishes from clients for my next endeavors for graduate school back home in Rochester, NY. Thanks for making this year so memorable!

In Gratitude,

Lauren

Mercy Volunteer at Hands on Hartford

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